Third time's the harm for Butler
Kelan Martin digs in against Trevon Bluiett. (Icon SMI)
Trevon Bluiett helped Xavier advance to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament and he may just have ensured the Musketeers will be playing in the NCAA Tournament as well.
Bluiett scored 23 points, including a tough foul line jumper that broke the game's final tie with 16 seconds left, and Xavier beat No. 18 Butler 62-57 on Thursday night.
"I think we have competitive guys. They understand what's at stake," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "I don't know how you can't. 2017, everywhere we go, guys have their phones right up to their noses. I'm sure they're Snapchatting, but at the same time, they're probably checking Twitter and seeing the bottom line on ESPN and Fox Sports 1. We're aware of all that stuff. The bigger issue is making sure we play our best against really good teams and Butler is a really good team."
Bluiett, who had six points in the first half, hit the winner over two defenders to make it 59-57. Butler's Kamar Baldwin missed a 3-point attempt and Tyler Lewis missed a jumper, two chances to tie or go ahead and Xavier added a free throw and a dunk at the buzzer for the final margin.
"Trevon has done it all year long. That's why we put the ball in his hands at the end," Mack said.
Bluiett didn't let him down.
"Coach wanted me to get the ball around the elbow and just kind of make a play off that," he said. "When I turned around and saw the basket, I felt like I had an advantage trying to get to the rim. So I tried to use my body a little bit and the main thing was just to stay poised and I just got a shot off."
The Musketeers (21-12) will face Creighton in Friday's semifinals. It will be Xavier's fourth appearance in the semifinals.
Malcolm Bernard had 12 points and 10 rebounds for seventh-seeded Xavier, while Sean O'Mara had 10 points.
Kelan Martin had 15 points to lead the second-seeded Bulldogs (23-8), who have never won a game in four Big East Tournaments. They were hoping to be a second seed in the NCAA Tournament but that could in doubt now.
"I'll take the shot, Kamar had there late, a clean 3," Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. "That was a great look for us."
Holtmann talked about his team's 0-4 record in the Big East Tournament.
"We play pretty much a good team every time," he said. "We're not ignoring the fact that we're 0 for 4. We want to win. Our guys want to win. We're disappointed."
Neither team led by more than two points over the final 6 minutes until the closing seconds.
"The game could have gone either way down to the wire," Mack said. "Our guys made some big time plays."
Bluiett, who leads the Musketeers with an 18.0 scoring average, came up big in the second half going 5 for 9 from the field, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range.
Both teams struggled from long range with Butler going 4 for 19 and Xavier 5 for 15.
Xavier: The Musketeers came into the game having lost six of eight and both wins were over DePaul. The streak coincided with the loss of point guard Edmond Sumner to a season-ending knee injury.
Butler: The Bulldogs swept the season series from Xavier. ... Butler and Xavier have been in three leagues together - Midwestern Collegiate, Atlantic 10 and Big East. ... The Bulldogs committed five turnovers in the first half, all within the first 6 minutes.
Xavier faces Creighton on Friday in the semifinals.